Minister denies manipulation of JSC

2012-04-26 19:48

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Cape Town - Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Thursday denied dictating appointments to the bench, days after the deputy judge president of the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg was taken to task by him and overlooked for promotion.

"I am not aware of a political voting block in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). After deliberations in the JSC, the vote is by secret ballot, so I do not know what the other members... vote," Radebe told Parliament's portfolio committee on justice.

"As a result, I am not in charge of a political voting block, nor am I aware of anybody who is in charge of a political voting block," he added.

Radebe was responding to a question from Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts, who suggested that political interference dissuaded capable candidates from applying for positions on the bench "because they know what the outcome will be".

The JSC this week said it could recommend only three judges for appointment to the High Courts in Johannesburg and Pretoria, because of a dearth of suitable candidates. There were six vacancies.

South Gauteng High Court Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo failed to secure promotion to judge president of the Gauteng high courts. The post went to judge president of the Labour Courts, Dunstan Mlambo.

Mojapelo has criticised working conditions at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, and in a newspaper article last year called for more public participation in the appointment of the chief justice.

In Mojapelo's interview with the JSC last week, Radebe raised the article in which he faulted the JSC for not inviting nominations before appointing former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo in 2009.

It was penned just before current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was appointed in a storm of controversy, again without a call for other nominations.

Radebe put it to Mojapelo that he had not only criticised the JSC, but strayed into the political arena by making public statements.

"That was not grilling," Radebe said on Thursday of the exchange.

"As a member of the JSC I am allowed to ask a candidate questions. So the questions I posed to him were very relevant to the job that he was applying [for]. His views are important to understand if he were to be the JP [judge pesident] - how he looks at those issues."

Smuts asked the minister whether the shortage of candidates in Gauteng could have been a consequence of the dire working conditions Mojapelo outlined last year.

These ranged from inaccurate court records, to registry office corruption, to a lack of computers, fax machines and functioning lifts in the 12-storey building.

Radebe answered: "I think you should ask Judge Mojapelo what he means when he says judges do not want to serve in his court. I do not know what he means by that."

The portfolio committee earlier this month expressed serious concern about conditions in at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg and proposed to give the department six months to improve them.

Smuts remarked: "The minister seems to be unaware of an awful lot".

- SAPA

Read more on:    jsc  |  jeff radebe  |  mogoeng mogoeng  |  sandile ngcobo  |  johannesburg  |  judiciary
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